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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

3 plead guilty to alien smuggling

A son called 911 to report his father being held as a hostage

HOUSTON - Three Mexican men pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiring to harbor and transport illegal aliens for financial gain. The pleas were announced by U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson and are the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Harris County Sheriff's Office (HCSO).

Anselmo Gonzalez-Mendoza, 32, Epifanio Gonzalez-Mendoza, 26, and Leonel Gonzalez-Mendoza, 20, all of Mexico, were indicted along with Agustin Gonzalez-Mendoza and Rogelio Gonzalez-Mendoza for conspiracy to harbor and transport illegal aliens within the United States for financial gain. Agustin and Rogelio previously pleaded guilty to the offense.

The investigation began March 15 when the HCSO received a 911 call from a man who said his father was being held against his will at a Houston residence. Deputies responded, and during a security sweep of the residence they discovered 22 illegal aliens, including the five defendants, and three firearms.

ICE agents interviewed the man who made the 911 call and learned that he had paid the alien smugglers $1,000 to have his father smuggled from San Antonio to Houston after he was first smuggled into the United States from Mexico. Following the father's arrival in Houston, the smugglers demanded an additional $2,000. Unable to pay the fee and fearing for his father's safety, the man called the sheriff's office. Several of those discovered in the house identified the five men, who are all related, as members of the smuggling organization.

Co-conspirators Rogelio and Agustin Gonzalez-Mendoza are scheduled for sentencing in August and September. Anselmo, Epifanio and Leonel Gonzalez-Mendoza will be sentenced in October. All face a maximum of 10 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. All of the defendants are also subject to deportation upon completion of any sentence imposed.

This case was investigated by ICE with assistance from the Harris County Sheriff's Office, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Davis.